GIVING IN to the longstanding demand of Israeli citizens of Indian origin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced that they would be given Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards, even if they have served in the Israeli military. He made this commitment with Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu seated in the audience. Addressing a 4,000-strong gathering in Tel Aviv, Modi said: “I have heard the complaints about not getting OCI cards for the Indian community here. But if the relations have heart-to-heart connection, they do not depend on documents.”
“Those who have done compulsory Army service, they can also get the OCI… Because of some Indian rules, you were not able to convert them from PIO cards into OCI,” he said, referring to the home ministry rules. According to Indian government rules, those who serve in the military — which is a mandatory requirement in Israel — cannot get OCI cards. This has been a longstanding demand from Jews of Indian origin who have stayed in Israel and want OCI cards.
The waiver of this requirement, as promised by Modi, will benefit many among the 80,000 Jews of Indian origin. Modi also promised direct flights connecting Delhi and Tel Aviv, amid applause from the audience. Praising the Jewish community, he said: “The Jewish community has enriched India with their contribution in various fields. Israel has shown that more than size, it is the spirit that matters. Our ties with Israel are about mutual trust and friendship.”
He also recounted his government’s initiatives to improve the economy, including opening up the defence sector for FDI. “The Israeli companies can come and try their fortune,” he said. “We have introduced 100 per cent FDI in key sectors, which will help our economy. With GST, we are aiming towards the economic integration of India. The aim of my government is reform, perform and transform,” he said. “Modi and I have decided to take our partnership to new heights,” said Netanyahu. “We love you,” he said, adding, “I want Indians to come to Israel on a curry trail, just like Israelis go to India on a hummus trail.”